Rendered Fat Content


Plaque Depicting a Quail Chick
Ptolemaic Period [332–30 BCE])

" … never any different from antiquity to present."

There's wrong, and then there's FlatWrong. Wrong tends to be a run-of-the-mill error, while FlatWrong catches the perpetrator by complete surprise. Wrong might surprise, too, but it carries little consequence. Wrong turns almost always seem easily corrected. Even taking that wrong freeway out of Lexington, Kentucky, without discovering my error for over an hour resulted only in a different route home. I couldn't turn around without adding another hour to a trip I'd already lengthened by about an hour, so that error produced a plot twist of little consequence. FlatWrong cannot usually be undone. It's an unintended center stage pratfall on opening night. There's no undoing that sort of performance.

The truth's out, then.
The audience knows a little better just how infallible you are and perhaps always were. Some will feel baited and switched, wondering how they could have been so easily misled into believing this one would be different. Everyone has clay feet. There never were any exceptions. Those who most convincingly project an aura of invulnerability might just have always been the most vulnerable. They might not have known, either. They might have come to believe their press releases and set themselves up for their fall. However it came about, it came about, and there's no undoing possible. Rewinding always was a fantasy and always will be. We do and are done and sometimes feel as though we're done for.

Yesterday, I wrote a brilliant story. I called it TheSchmoozeAlarm. In it, I recounted how I was trying to learn a skill of which The Muse possesses an abundance. I'd written down the name she'd given it but then didn't refer to what I'd written, relying upon my proven faulty memory to recall the term. She hadn't said SnoozeAlarm, but SnoozeButton. Had I started the story from that perspective, I would have produced an unaccountably better story. When I discovered my error, I seriously considered attempting a surreptitious rework, a quick, stealthy fix without announcing my mistake. I might have recovered without paying much of a toll. In writing, it's sometimes possible to erase the past, to overlay it with an edited version so that it disappears. Writing almost always includes such iteration. It's virtually nothing to fix a wrong with an updated version as long as that fix occurs before publication.

It's impossible to correct the printed word. Post something, and it might just as well have been printed. It's particularly difficult to change a title after posting since titles often serve as the primary index of a piece. They tend to be immutable. Links, too, seem impossible to undo. One either leaves a busted link floating out in the ether or connects the old link to the replacement, an unannounced bait-and-switch. I've done all those and others in my time, almost always attempting to preserve a little more dignity than I deserved. This time, though, I chose to go full-open kimino with my error. I wrote that story backward. I was not listening. I was not careful, certainly not nearly careful enough even for dealing with this kind of stuff. It's a bigger deal than it might appear to anyone but myself. It's a huge deal to me.

If you want to know who somebody is, just watch how they react when they screw something up, when they catch themselves FlatWrong. I suspect there are no wrong responses, only informative ones. We are each who we are and more complicated than even we ever suspect. We surprise ourselves. We might try to keep everything under wraps, or we might master the public pratfall. I live somewhere in the middle. I'm not so confident that I stumble without embarrassment, and I'm also not so uptight that I can never admit to some shortcomings. Honing relies upon more than a steady hand. It also depends upon error, and sometimes upon the sort of error nobody ever sees coming and from which nobody ever invisibly recovers. The record's written before it's acknowledged or even seen. We integrate our inadvertencies into our legacies. It was never any different from antiquity to present.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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